Al Shabaab at­tacks base used by Kenyan, US forces

The Punch - - WORLD NEWS -

sO­MA­LIA’S al shabaab mil­i­tant group on sun­day at­tacked a mil­i­tary base in Kenya used by both U.s. and Kenyan forces, and a po­lice re­port seen by Reuters said the Is­lamists had de­stroyed two planes, two he­li­copters and mul­ti­ple ve­hi­cles, Reuters re­ports.

U.s. Africa Com­mand con­firmed an at­tack on the Manda Bay Air­field in Lamu county, close to the so­mali bor­der and said it had re­pelled the mil­i­tants along with Kenyan forces.

The Kenyan mil­i­tary said five mil­i­tants had been killed in the at­tack. There were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of Kenyan or U.s. ca­su­al­ties.

The Kenya Po­lice re­port said two U.s. he­li­copters and a Cessna air­craft had been de­stroyed as well as “mul­ti­ple” Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles. A Kenyan Cessna air­craft was also de­stroyed, it said.

In a state­ment ear­lier on sun­day al shabaab claimed they had de­stroyed seven air­craft and three mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles, with­out pro­vid­ing other de­tails. It also pub­lished pic­tures of masked gun­men stand­ing next to an air­craft in flames.

Ma­jor Karl Wi­est from AFRICOM told Reuters fewer than 150 U.s. per­son­nel were at the base, where they pro­vide train­ing and coun­tert­er­ror­ism sup­port to east African forces.

“Ini­tial re­ports re­flect dam­age to in­fra­struc­ture and equip­ment. An ac­count­abil­ity of per­son­nel as­sess­ment is un­der­way,” AFRICOM said in a press re­lease.

The as­sault that be­gan be­fore dawn lasted around four hours, wit­nesses and mil­i­tary sources told Reuters.

Kenyan mil­i­tary spokesman Colonel Paul Nju­guna said the base had been se­cured.

“This morn­ing at around 5:30 am an at­tempt was made to breach se­cu­rity at Manda Air strip. The at­tempted breach was suc­cess­fully re­pulsed,” he said in a state­ment.

“Aris­ing from the un­suc­cess­ful breach a fire broke out af­fect­ing some of the fuel tanks lo­cated at the airstrip. The fire has been put un­der con­trol.”

In the op­er­a­tion to re­pulse the at­tack, at least five mil­i­tants were killed and weapons in­clud­ing four AK47 ri­fles were seized, Nju­guna said.

There was no in­di­ca­tion that the mil­i­tants had man­aged to en­ter the base. The air­field is sep­a­rate to an­other on Manda Is­land used by com­mer­cial flights to Lamu.

Al shabaab has been fight­ing for more than a decade to over­throw the so­mali gov­ern­ment and im­pose strict Is­lamic law.

Kenya sent troops into so­ma­lia in 2011 af­ter a spate of cross-bor­der at­tacks and kid­nap­pings. They were later ab­sorbed into an African Union peace­keep­ing force, now 21,000-strong, which sup­ports the shaky, Western­backed so­mali gov­ern­ment.

In­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ben­jamin strick, who analy­ses satel­lite im­agery for open source in­ves­ti­ga­tion web­sites such as Belling­cat, said the pho­tos of gun­men next to a burn­ing plane pub­lished by al shabaab matched satel­lite images of build­ings and a dis­tinc­tive air­craft apron ad­ja­cent to the base but out­side its perime­ter.

Res­i­dents on nearby lamu Is­land, a haven for wealthy tourists and vis­it­ing euro­pean roy­alty, say a loud ex­plo­sion jolted them awake be­fore 4 a.m.

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